Getty Images/Minden Pictures RM
Molly McArdle
June 23, 2017

Second only to the fauna of the African savannah, the animals of tropical rainforests are the most famous in the world — and some of the most sought after by travelers eager to spot the elusive creatures. From piranhas, anacondas, and jaguars in the Amazon, to gorillas and chimpanzees and pygmy hippopotamuses in the Congo, to birds of paradise, elephants, and orangutans in Java, these animals have beckoned nature lovers for years.

Tropical Rainforest Facts

Tropical rainforests (as opposed to temperate ones) are located near the equator. The largest of these are found in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Rainforests are defined, unsurprisingly, by rain: they get between 60 to 160 inches of water evenly distributed throughout the year. These rich biomes, with an abundance of warmth and moisture, hold the greatest biodiversity found in the world. More than 15 million species of flora and fauna live in these ecosystems.

The Amazon rainforest — the largest tropical rainforest in the world — is also home to the largest collection of living plants and animals on Earth: for both species and individuals. Ten percent of all known species can be found in the Amazon, and 20 percent of all known birds and fish. The Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest, home to 10,000 species of plants, 400 species of mammals, 1,000 species of birds, and 700 species of fish.

Top Tropical Rainforest Animals

The striking appearance of so many rainforest animals mirrors the intensity of the rainforest climate. Think of the bright colors of a toucan or a poison dart frog, for example. The rainforest is also home to some unusual behaviors (like the home décor habits of male bower birds, or the displays of affection between bonobos).

In the Amazon, seek out vampire bats, sloths, howler monkeys, and pink dolphins.

In Indonesia, follow the tracks of a Javan tiger or a Sumatran rhinoceros.

In the Congo, listen or watch for the expert mimicry of the African grey parrot or chameleon.

But even the armchair traveler need not go far to see evidence of rainforest fauna. The domestic chicken descends from the wild junglefowl, which evolved in the tropical rainforests of southeast Asia.

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